Arrived about 7:00 pm. I was very excited to try out our new 52 in display at a real star party, so couldn't wait to get started.
Grounds were mowed well other than some thorny areas close to the door needed to be stomped down, observatory secure. J.P. (Director of Park Services) stopped by to say hi on his golf cart. It was nice to meet him in person. He is just checking up things and looking for some additional observatory coverage for ranger bill who is out ill right now.
Uncovered Scopes, Telrads working well. Eye pieces mostly intact but some rubber rings were loosely scattered in case and some caps on the wrong eyepieces (easily fixed), I put the loose rubber rings in the cabinet for now. Lights up in the parking lot reflectors and parking signs. Donation light working. Observatory roofs opened fine. Observatory lights on. Noticed the outer lights facing the parking lot are starting to lose their red coating. I'll try and remember to see if we have replacement bulbs in the cabinets next time. I uncovered our new display, but noticed the cardboard cover is starting to break down on the bottom (tape is not holding to cardboard). I think Darin had some ideas for reinforcing the display cover. I would also like to try and figure out if we can get some kind of astronomy decoration on that 52 inch cover. Maybe we could get a big AAS logo printed up and stuck to it, or some astronomy picture.
A few guest started arriving immediately around sunset, I showed them around the observatory and until it was dark enough to start viewing. However, it quickly became a very cloudy night. About a half full moon was the main target all night. Both the Harlan and the Ealing tracked about 80%. The Harlan spotting scope is way off target, but the telrad was a good backup. Mars was the secondary target at the start of the night until clouds parted enough to see the Hercules cluster.
I was able to put the scopes up on the moon, Mars, M13, and Jupiter as clouds parted briefly. Due to the clouds, most of the night I entertained guests with the normal sky tour, AAS history, outreach programs information, and various astronomy apps. I tried out the new display with my iPad and PC connection. I was able to show off star size comparisons and video of the stars going around the super massive black hole at the center of our own spiral galaxy. It seemed to work well. I turned down the brightness of the display to its lowest settings and even turned it off when ever we needed to view westward to help with dark adaption.
Nice mix of children and adults. The best moment of the night was when we saw a few shooting stars from the meteor show pop in between clouds. Also nice to be able to show off Jupiter just before shutting down the observatory.
Note: Several guest mentioned they wished there was better lighting along the path to and from the parking lot. I believe we are still working on that but hoping someone reading this can confirm.
All guest gone by 11:45 p.m.
Observatory secured, I packed up and left at 12:10 am.
I had to dodge a suicidal raccoon on the road back, which is a different experience that the suicidal deer I usually see jumping in front of my truck at night.
Temp 75 degrees